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Tony Schiavone says the pressure was getting to Dusty Rhodes by 1988 in the NWA, Jim Ross pushed for more competitive matches

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Tony Schiavone says the pressure was getting to Dusty Rhodes by 1988 in the NWA, Jim Ross pushed for more competitive matches

This week on “What Happened When,” Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson covered the 11/26/88 episode of World Championship Wrestling on TBS.

This was considered one of the big turning points for the promotion because this is when Dusty Rhodes did the “spike in the eye” angle that infuriated TBS executives and led to him being fired. This was also the timeframe for Ted Turner’s buyout off Jim Crockett Promotions.

Schiavone talked about whether Dusty should have been removed as booker toward the end of his Crockett run: “The line Tully Blanchard said was maybe Dusty Rhodes should book himself against Dusty Rhodes and therefore he will never lose. I remember honestly thinking especially after that line about Dusty at the Bunkhouse Stampede and during that time that maybe it was time for Dusty to not work anymore. I often heard the old adage that bookers will book themselves on top for two reasons. Number one because of ego, but number two because they feel that in their head, they have the way a certain angle on top should go and the best way to do it is to do it themselves instead of telling someone what to do. I think most of us felt Dusty needed to pay more attention to everything else on the card instead of just himself and where it was going. I don’t think there was any question, and I was a Dusty supporter, very much so and he was my friend.

But, I don’t think there was any question that when (Lex) Luger did not go over during that Bunkhouse Stampede, we were all shocked. I was sitting there absolutely stunned because it was, and I didn’t go over finishes in the back, but it was almost common knowledge to everybody that Luger either was going to go over or should have gone over. I remember thinking as the match went on, is Dusty going to put himself over in this? And he did. Later that night is when Tully came up with that line and that is when I thought Dusty should not book anymore, or not wrestle anymore and just book. I compare it to air traffic controllers. They burn out because of all the pressure they are on a daily basis. I saw the pressure on Dusty during this time and I saw the pressure on Dusty when he took the job later on when Bill Watts came aboard and was the boss. Bill Watts really put the pressure on. I think that was part of me thinking that maybe Dusty should step away from bumping because the pressure was getting to him, and it was.”

Schiavone said it was Jim Ross’ idea to put more competitive matches on TV: “The beginning of the wrestling product changing from an arena business to a television show. JR was a big proponent of that. I remember JR would complain to me when we roomed together about having better matches on TV. In other words, he didn’t like all these job matches or enhancement matches. This was a product of Jim who was a syndicator who went out and sold the shows to TV stations thinking we should have a more competitive TV show. I came from basically the arena business where I thought that we shouldn’t show them everything on TV because I always thought if we show them everything on TV, why would they want to come to the arenas?  The Clash of Champions is the perfect example. Why would we show them that if we want them to come to the arena? JR always thought more and more of TV. I understand where JR was coming from because he sold TV shows. That was his thing and he was the best at it. It was two schools of thought and I think this was the beginning of the TV show being the thing itself and not the arena business.

If you use any portion of the quotes from this article please credit What Happened When with Tony Schiavone with a h/t to PWrestling.com for the transcription